Note: The following is a made up story. It’s just a picture of one of the things I’m currently day-dreaming about. I wrote it as a story so that I could give you a snap shot, the specifics of the picture aren’t what’s important so much as the feel they promote.
Picture this with me....
You walk in to an old warehouse. It’s a large space with tall windows. Straight in front of you is an open conference room made from repurposing old windows and glass doors stacked together. There’s a long table in the middle. And you can see a group of seven sitting around as someone else is animatedly talking and pointing things out on a grease board that you can’t quite see from where you stand.
The whole place has a sort of industrial chic, creative repurposed feel. There’s a tangible energy to the space. You walk in and you feel it almost immediately. It makes you want to make something. Build something. Create.
To your left there are couches and comfy chairs set up in a sort of open sitting room. There's a small group of four people sitting and excitedly talking over a new idea for an iPhone app they are designing. To your right there's some tables and through an open door you can see a kitchen. You notice a man making a pot of loose leaf tea through the large open kitchen door. You also notice a chalk board behind him that has a list of community events on it - php group meeting, yoga class, community dinner, guided meditation class, open mic night.
As you circle around the conference room you notice a couple of drawing tables and art supplies. Next to big open windows there's a woman painting and a man sketching a story board, with previous pieces of the story taped up to the wall next to him.
Out of curiosity you wander to the other side of the conference room and find a door that says “screening room” above it. A room for videographers to preview and show their work. The door is closed.
Just past the screening room there's another door, it's open. You can see a stack of yoga mats against the far wall and a shelf with candles of various sizes. This must be where the yoga class happens. Right now, though, the lights are bright and a young women is spread out on some floor pillows typing on a laptop.
The back of the main room has a number of desks, some traditional and some standing desks. Some of the desk spaces have a number of large monitors. You wander close to one of these and hear two men talking about a web design they are working on. At another desk there's a women working on her first novel. On a laptop in the corner you see someone working on a logo design. At another desk you notice someone is editing photos. On a chalk board beside one of the desks you see a simple note scribbled "Creativity builds on creativity. Don't create in a vacuum."
In the back of the room there are stairs leading down and a sign that says art exhibition. That's when you remember seeing the same sign on a doorway from the front street. That door had also had an explanation of the current "basement exhibit" - a mixed media exhibit from two local artists you had only just recently begun to hear about.
Next to the stairs there's an elevator and another stairway leading up. You take the elevator. This is where you've been heading all along. You've been invited to my apartment for lunch. I'd warned you that you might get a little side tracked and distracted if you came in the front way instead of coming in the back entrance, but you were curious.
The hall upstairs is well lit with three doors each a different bright color. On the last door there’s a sign that says “Play Room” and inside you can see a variety of neatly organized children’s toys. You knock on the first door, my door. I answer and show you in. As you enter the small but open apartment you see a young women sitting on the couch holding a baby and I introduce her as my neighbor and then hurry off because there's a bit of a ruckus coming from the other room where my children are playing. As you talk more with the young women you learn she lives in the other apartment on this floor. Her husband’s a graphic designer and she does interior decorating. On the side they run a small video production company. They helped start the co-work down stairs. I come back and my neighbor leaves to go give the baby a nap.
I suggest we have lunch in the garden since its a nice day and the kids could use a little outdoor time. I call the kids and three come running. You know two are mine and assume correctly that the other is a neighbor boy. I explain that the neighbor boy is hanging out with us while his mom is working on some projects for her etsy store and the dad is out doing a photo shoot. We all head out to the garden on the roof top.
The garden is beautiful with a number of containers of various kinds growing all kinds of produce. In the center of the roof there are a hand full of tables. We sit down at one and begin to eat as we talk.
You begin to ask questions, that’s why you are here after all. You are writing a paper about communal living and upon hearing about this place you knew you had to include it in your paper. For you the co-work is interesting and inspiring (even more so upon actually seeing it), but what is even more intriguing is what is happening in the rooms up above. Four families choosing to live in close community with each other. I explain that we call our little community co-live, nothing fancy just a simple echo of the co-work that we together created and manage.
“What does it looks like in practice? Are you just some friends who live next to each other?” You ask.
“Well, yes and no. We are friends and we do live next to each other. But, we are more than that too. We aren’t just community. We are intentional community. We are intentional about spending time together. We get together weekly for dinner and a prayer time together. We are a spiritual community, so we are intentional about encouraging one another in our spiritual journeys. We all are at different places in our spiritual walks, but we are all seeking to follow Jesus in a way that is authentic and open to how God’s voice is currently leading us. We also want to be intentional about opening our lives to one another and caring for each other. So we do things that help each other, for example, we watch each others kids now and then, we cut our costs by sharing a playroom for the kids, sharing internet, and even sharing two cars between the four families. Granted that last one isn’t as hard as it seems since all of us work just down stairs and there’s a grocery store just a short walk away.” I smile and pause for a minute before continuing. “Lately though, our intentionality has begun to take on a new measure as well - being intentional about using our space and our creative gifts to benefit the larger community. We want co-work and co-live to be a place for community and collaboration FOR the benefit and care of others.”
“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Or an example of that?” You ask.
“Sure.” I reply. “Well, a few months ago co-live started hosting dinners for all those who work in the co-work. It’s been a great way for people to get to know the people working around them and some great collaboration has come out of it. Last month we also organized a hackathon of sorts, where a group of designers and developers from co-work created a free web site for a local charity in our community. There has also been some talk about beginning to offer some classes to the community. Since co-work is really specialized towards independently contracted creatives and small creative companies these classes would be geared towards the creative arts as well and hopefully taught by members of the co-work.”
The kids run back over at this point asking if they can pick some strawberry’s. I tell them they can only pick the ripe one’s and they run off to gather as many as they can carry. You and I continue talking about intentional communal living in general as well as co-live specifically. Before you know it is getting late in the afternoon. And it’s time to go. The kids and I walk you back down stairs, but not before first giving you a small handmade cloth bag filled with strawberries.
Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman